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Monday, April 7, 2003

  • Back to normal after the storm
  • Funding for more computer research
  • Notes on the first day of exams
Chris Redmond

Today is World Health Day

[Pushing the green button]

Having her say at Speaker's Corner is Brenda Koprowski, president of the Federation of Students. The high-tech video suggestion box was installed by the Federation in the Student Life Centre a few weeks ago. Tapes from Speaker's Corner will be broadcast on TV screens at the Used Bookstore, Ground Zero, the Bombshelter and Scoops.

Back to normal after the storm

The university is open as usual today, after Friday's closing on account of bad weather. It wasn't all that monstrous a storm, in the end, but driving was pretty bad early Friday as a result of the overnight freezing rain, and the board of education announced that local public schools would close for the day. By established policy, UW follows the lead of the school board for winter storm closings.

Friday's "quiz #5" for one of the bigger classes, Geography 102, has been rescheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday (April 9) in Arts Lecture Hall room 116.
With classes cancelled on the last day of the winter term, the registrar put out the word that students with in-class tests should get in touch with the instructor later (today, say) to find out about alternative arrangements. By the way, there is a university rule that's supposed to forbid in-class tests of more than a certain weight in the last few days of term, so we'll assume that all the tests now being rescheduled are of very modest weight.

The English Language Proficiency Exam, set for Friday night, was rescheduled for Sunday evening. (Anyone with problems in that regard should call ext. 2837.) The final day of the graduate student research conference is being rescheduled for this Friday.

Under the storm procedure, most staff get a paid day off, except for those in "essential" services, including snow-clearing and the university police. In fact, having the university closed, and parking lots and roadways relatively empty, makes things easier for the grounds crew as they try to clear the mess. I haven't heard any direct information about when the grounds crew were at work or how tough a job it was, but by this morning many walkways, and the ring road, are clear and dry.

I had e-mail over the weekend from a student who had tried to go to the library on Friday and found it closed, "due to potential risks of SARS. This put many of us who are regular library-goers in terror: why the library is closed and there was no information before regarding SARS cases in Waterloo? Does that mean someone who had been to the library got SARS?" Uh, no. There's no report of any SARS case, and the place was closed because of ice, not because of viruses. It was open as usual on Saturday and Sunday.

I expect there are other storm stories to tell. I'll be pleased to receive information by e-mail today and pass it along tomorrow.

Funding for more computer research

Security for e-mail on BlackBerry portable communicators is among the topics that will be pursued by UW researchers helped by the latest round of funding from Communications and Information Technology Ontario and industry partners, UW's news bureau has announced.

CITO -- which handed out more than $5 million across Ontario in this round of grants, matched by almost $4 million from industry -- is a "centre of excellence" for work in such fields as wireless networks and devices, the Internet, human/computer interface issues, health information storage and retrieval.

The work related to BlackBerry devices will be done by Catherine Gebotys of the electrical and computer engineering department under the title "Low Energy Security on RIM PDAs". CITO is providing $200,000, and Research In Motion, the BlackBerry's maker, is adding $100,000.

The research explores low energy power-analysis resistant security applications for portable devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cell phones. Security is crucial for today's portable devices as many PDAs or cell phones are Internet enabled and contain credit card information, while others used in the healthcare industry contain confidential information.

At the same time, PDAs must be energy efficient in order to maintain long battery lifetimes. The research team will study low energy counter-measures for power analysis attacks in PDAs.

Also receiving funding in last week's announcement:

Notes on the first day of exams

I wrote a few words on Thursday about the 2.6 per cent increase that will come to staff and faculty salary scales as of May 1. Neil Murray of the human resources departments notes that there's something I didn't mention: "The increase also applies to the janitors and housekeepers in the residence operations. They are on a one-rate system, and their rates will increase by 2.6%. The wage rates for Canadian Union of Public Employees local 793 also increase effective May 1, with the same 2.6%." All groups are in the middle of a two-year salary settlement.

And here's a bit more about the future facing students who enter first-year mathematics in January 2004 instead of the usual September starting date. I said that those students would be in class for three terms in a row -- winter, spring and fall 2004 -- and indeed that's possible. But I'm now told that it's more likely for those students to take just two academic terms, winter and spring, and go out on their first co-op jobs in the fall term of 2004.

Still catching up on what happened at last week's meeting of the UW board of governors, I have some notes on remarks by Laura Talbot-Allan, the vice-president (university relations). She told the board that the pre-public phase of Campaign Waterloo "is going very well", with $124.6 million collected or promised so far. "There's challenges of economic uncertainty, obviously, and challenges of the Iraq war," the vice-president said. "We're trying very hard to get to the public launch next winter," based on the idea of having $150 to $160 million on hand towards an eventual $260 million goal before the "public" stage of the campaign begins.

"We are starting to re-evaluate the UW home page design," says Jesse Rodgers, web developer here in the communications and public affairs office. "This re-evaluation is intended to determine what is working with the current design, what may not be working, and to discuss any site maintenance challenges that departments may have been facing since this design was introduced. Our intention is to refresh the current look and feel, not to move to a new look altogether." To talk about such plans, two open meetings are being scheduled -- one today and one on April 17. Both start at 9 a.m. in Davis Centre room 1302, and everyone is welcome.

Barbara Moffatt of the biology department is speaking (on genetic engineering) at 12:00 today at the Kitchener Public Library, as its noon-hour lecture series winds up for this season. . . . A teaching resources workshop on "Course Design" will be offered this Wednesday morning and again on the afternoon of April 15. . . . The faculty association will hold its annual general meeting at 2:30 on Wednesday (April 9) in Physics room 145. . . .

The executive committee of the UW senate will meet at 3:30 today in Needles Hall room 3004, to set the agenda for this month's meeting of the full senate. Agenda items include a proposal to create the new titles of University Professor and University Research Chair, to honour a limited number of distinguished faculty. Also coming along: a "tourism option" in the faculty of environmental studies, paralleling the one already offered in applied health sciences.

The LT3 technology centre is bringing a speaker of unusual interest to campus on Wednesday. He's Hal Abelson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who will speak at 12 noon in the Flex lab in the Dana Porter Library. "MIT is undergoing its most active period of educational change in thirty years," says LT3's web site. "Much of this change is made possible by information technology, and it is being realized through programs such as MIT OpenCourseware and through research and education alliances with Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Cambridge University, Singapore, and others. These efforts are coordinated by MIT's Council on Educational Technology," which Abelson chairs. (I'll say more about this event tomorrow.) Anyone interested in attending should preregister online.

Nada Sutic, an environment and resource student who's working on a thesis about "green roofs", will be making a presentation on that topic Wednesday as the city of Waterloo holds a day-long workshop. "My thesis," she writes, "is about the potential for green roofs to be used as a tool to improve stormwater management and air quality, and reduce the urban heat island by applying them in Uptown Waterloo." Sutic's presentation will be made jointly with Ryan Kennedy, formerly of UW and now working for Waterloo Region's public health department.


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